A message is being sent on the Internet that NATO – or in another version: the Americans – were to cause the work on the new Polish tank to be suspended. It’s fake news. The decision was made in the Polish army, at the level of the General Staff. “It just blurred, the idea was abandoned” – explains Konkret24 military expert.
It’s about an illustration from the website Deprezentatory.pl, with a photo of the project of the Polish PL-01 Concept combat vehicle and the caption: “Why doesn’t anyone say or write about the fact that NATO refused to start the production of a new Polish tank?”. One Twitter user posted it with the comment: “Concept Polish PL-01 tank invisible to radar. Innovative project ridiculed by Western ‘experts’. High quality and competitiveness meant that the Americans banned its production. Poles forced to buy Western scrap metal for huge money” (original spelling of all entries).
Many commenting on the illustration believed that the decision of NATO or the Americans caused the project to build this car to be abandoned. “NATO did not agree because the Polish people have no right to produce anything of their own. They are to buy too much money from others, above all from the USA”; “Because it’s unpolitical. Besides, we’re supposed to buy from them”; “Why should we have our own if we can buy Leopards or Abrams? So that we are defenseless” – wrote Internet users. But a lot of people asked if the information provided with the photo was true. There were also those who directly wrote that these reports were “untrue”, “gibberish”, “bullshit”, “fejk”.
According to our findings, the Polish military resigned from the project. Such unconfirmed theories about pressure from NATO allies to abandon certain military projects are nothing new.
Not a tank, not a prototype, just a concept vehicle
The PL-01 Concept was to be a Polish direct support vehicle developed by the Gliwice-based company Ośrodek Badawczo-Rozwojowy Urządzeń Mechanicniczych (OBRUM) belonging to the Polish Armaments Group, in cooperation with the British concern BAE Systems. “It was supposed to be” – because it didn’t even have a prototype. In 2013, at the armaments fair in Kielce, and later in Gliwice, only a concept vehicle was shown, i.e. a sheet mock-up of an unmanned turret superimposed on the chassis of the Swedish CV90 infantry fighting vehicle. As he explained in conversation Andrzej Szortyka, President of ZM Bumar-Łabędy Andrzej Szortyka, presented on-board devices of the vehicle were on loan, e.g. from BAE Systems and Saab.
The chances of creating the PL-01 Concept prototype increased when the project received a positive assessment of the Steering Committee of the National Center for Research and Development and was recommended for funding by the National Center for Research and Development. “The prototype is to be built within 30 months,” the website wrote in December 2013 Dziennikarmony.pl. The producers announced that the real date of creation of working prototypes is 2016, and two years later the tank was to go into production.
However, that did not happen. Why? We asked General Waldemar Skrzypczak, former commander of the land forces, and in 2012-2013 – when the fate of PL-01 Concept was being decided – deputy minister of national defense in the PO-PSL government. In September 2013, the military portal Altair.pl he wrotethat it was General Skrzypczak who was in favor of the idea of ”relying on a proven chassis”, which influenced the cooperation with foreign partners in the design of this tank.
General: “This concept failed in the General Staff”
General Waldemar Skrzypczak in an interview with Konkret24 admits that he remembers the story about the PL-01 Concept well. – At that time, I was the deputy minister of national defense and my idea was to create a Polish light or medium tank. I even set up a team at the Ministry of National Defence, which worked on this tank together with OBRUM Gliwice. They generated a technology demonstrator (in other words, a concept vehicle – ed.), which they then showed at the fair in Kielce. It wasn’t a finished tank, he says. When asked why the development project for this vehicle failed and whether “NATO did not agree to start production” or “the Americans prohibited its production”, he replies that it was neither NATO nor the Americans’ decision, but the Polish Army General Staff’s decision:
I was then the deputy minister of national defense. If there had been American or any other pressure, I would have known about it. To my knowledge, there was no such pressure.
And he explains: – This concept failed in the General Staff because the General Staff did not know what to do. He had no vision. Despite my pressure to accept this tank, they started discussing whether it should be a tank or a direct support vehicle. From a military point of view on the battlefield, it made no difference. But it was such military resistance. It was a time of changes in the army, which is why it was decided not to enter into a new concept, a Polish one at that.
And this concept, as General Skrzypczak believes, “was revolutionary for those times.” – I don’t mean that we took the chassis from the CV90 tank, because something had to be shown. The concept of the tower was revolutionary. The proof is that ten years have passed and South Korea has shown a new concept of its K3 tank, which is a rip off of our PL-01 Concept tank – he claims.
Damian Ratka – a Defence24.pl journalist specializing in armored weapons from the USA, Great Britain and the former USSR – explains that the PL-01 Concept was developed as part of the “Rydwan” program, which assumed the creation of a medium and light tracked platform. The average was to be applied to the direct support vehicle “Gepard”. – This program actually died, but not because the Americans or allies banned it – says Ratka. He explains that there were discussions in the army about the reasonableness of this project. – The military needs machines weighing 50 tons and above. And it was supposed to be a vehicle weighing 30-40 tons. There is even a consensus that such a light car is not needed – says the expert. He adds that the light platform created under the “Rydwan” program has evolved into the “Borsuk” combat vehicle project, which is currently being implemented. Ratka explains:
The plans that are created in the military are very fluid and change until they are finally implemented. It just faded away, the idea was abandoned. Perhaps forces and funds were redirected to work on Badger.
Damian Ratka also points out that similar information about the Americans or other allies allegedly interfering with Polish military plans has been appearing for many years. An example was the project of the Polish Iryda aircraft. – In his case, various conspiracy theories about the Americans were also created. In fact, the state did not have the money for it at the time, and the project itself had flaws. And it was also accused of being non-perspective – says Ratka.
Main photo source: Shutterstock